Navy Jet Fighters Go to War
A twin-engine enlargement of the Phantom, the McDonnell XF2H-1 Banshee was powered by 3,000-pound thrust Westinghouse J34-GE-22s. The first of three prototypes ordered March 2, 1945, was flown January 11, 1947, at St. Louis by Robert M. Edholm.
Fifty-six F2H-1s, ordered May 29, 1947, and delivered from August 1948 to July 1949, were similar to the prototypes except for elimination of stabilizer dihedral. Four 20-mm guns with 600 rounds were mounted low in the nose, the wings folded upward for stowage, and an ejection seat was provided. They were first delivered in March 1949 to VF-171, which qualified on the Midway in August.
In June 1948, a contract was made for the F2H-2, which had 3,150-pound thrust J34-WE-34s, more internal fuel, and a 200-gallon tank on each wing tip. In addition to the usual four 20-mm guns, two 500-pound bombs or eight 5-inch rockets could be carried. From November 1949 to April 1952, 334 F2H-2s were accepted, plus 14 F2H-2Ns with APS-19 radar added in the nose for night fighting and first flown February 3, 1950.
After the Essex was provided with steam catapults,
VF-172’s F2H-2s could join combat in Korea on August 23, 1951. Three more squadrons were involved in the war’s last year, but two Marine fighter squadrons using F2H-2s did not enter combat.
First flown October 12, 1950, and last delivered on May 28, 1952, 88 F2H-2P Banshees were the Navy’s first jet reconnaissance types with six cameras in an extended nose, instead of guns. The most active Banshees were the F2H-2Ps of VMJ-1 at Pohang, which flew photo missions from March 1952 to the war’s end.
The F2H-2Bs were 27 F2H-2s modified to become the first Navy fighters to carry an Mk 7 tactical or Mk 8 penetration nuclear bomb under the port wing. Delivery tactics were developed with these planes by VX-3 and VX-5, and the first deployment was by four F2H-2Bs of VC-4 on the Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1952.
The F2H-3 was an all-weather fighter with APQ-41 radar in the nose, internal fuel, droppable tip tanks, four 20-mm M-12 guns with 600 rounds, two pylons for 500-pound bombs, and eight for 250-pound bombs or rockets, while the F2H-4 was similar, but for Hughes APG-37 radar. Acceptances began June 1952 on 250 F2H-3s and 150 F2H-4s, with the last delivered October 31, 1953. Banshee production at St. Louis totaled 895.
Banshees retired from Navy fighter squadrons in September 1959, and 39 transferred F2H-3s served the Canadian Navy from November 1955 to September 1962.
Grumman Panthers The Grumman Panther was a single-engine single-seater, but the design had begun with an April 22, 1946, contract for a two-seat XF9F-1 night fighter with four 1,500-pound thrust Westinghouse J30s. Searching for a more efficient way of getting the power required, Grumman decided to import from Britain the 5,000-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Nene (the engine also sold to Russia for the MiG-15 prototype), and in August 1946 the new Grumman G-79 design was submitted to the Navy.
The original XF9F-1 contract was changed to three single-engine prototypes on October 9, 1946. A Nene engine from Rolls-Royce arrived in time for the first XF9F-2 to fly November 21, 1947, piloted by Corwin “Corky” Meyers at Bethpage. The third prototype was flown August 16, 1948, as the XF9F-3 with an Allison J33-A-8 of 4,600-pound normal thrust. That engine was similar in size to the Nene, and was planned as a second-source engine in case the program to produce Nenes, as the J42 by Pratt & Whitney, was unsuccessful.
Grumman’s first jet production contract called for 47 F9F-2s with the Pratt & Whitney J42-P-6, and 54 F9F-3s with Allison J33-A-8s. The first example flown was an F9F-3 on January 17, 1949, while the F9F-2 was not available for tests until August 17. Since the engines were interchangeable, all the F9F-3s were later converted to F9F-2s after their completion in October 1949. One F9F-3 was flown with an experimental four gun turret, as shown in the accompanying photograph.